Erickson's six-pack lifts O's spirits


Club's longest spring stint eases fears after surgery

Aberdeen names manager


March 13, 2002|By Joe Christensen and Roch Kubatko | Joe Christensen and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - If the Orioles had any plans to baby Scott Erickson this spring in his return from reconstructive elbow surgery, those plans seemed to wither with each sinking fastball he threw yesterday afternoon.

Erickson became the team's first pitcher of the spring to toss six innings, as the Orioles defeated the Florida Marlins, 5-1.

The Marlins had nine hits against Erickson, but he used four double-play balls to hold them to one run. In three spring appearances, spanning 12 innings, he has a 3.00 ERA.

"I could have pitched last year," said Erickson, who underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2000. "I don't need to talk about that anymore. I'm healthy, and it's long gone. I'm no different than any other pitcher in the clubhouse right now."

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove has yet to name Erickson as his Opening Day starter, but Erickson is on schedule to pitch that game against the New York Yankees, April 1 at Camden Yards.

Erickson has always been considered a workhorse, pitching six or more innings in 72 percent (231 of 322) of his career starts. But there were some questions about whether he'd be able to maintain that workload after the surgery.

He went three innings in each of his first two appearances of the spring. Yesterday, one scout who watched Erickson pitch with a radar gun said the sinking fastballs ranged from 90 mph to 93 mph. Erickson had three strikeouts using his patented slider and also mixed in some curveballs and changeups.

Even more encouraging for the Orioles, Erickson seemed to get stronger later in the game.

"I thought the last two innings were Scotty's best," Hargrove said. "He threw 78 or 79 pitches, and we wanted him to throw 75."

Stephens, Riley among cuts

The Orioles cut 13 players from their spring roster, including right-handed pitcher John Stephens and outfielder Tim Raines Jr.

Stephens went 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA in three appearances spanning five innings, and the Orioles sent him to Triple-A Rochester. Raines went hitless in four spring at-bats and was sent to Double-A Bowie.

Other cuts included Steve Bechler, Mike Paradis, Matt Riley, Juan Rosario, Jay Spurgeon, Eric DuBose, Mike Hubbard, Eli Whiteside, Domingo Martinez, Darryl Brinkley and Manny Del Rosario.

Mora moves closer to debut

No longer bothered by cramping in his left calf, Melvin Mora took live batting practice again yesterday in preparation for his first spring appearance.

Mora also continues to test his left hand with every swing. He hasn't played since breaking the left ring finger in January.

"I'm ready," he said. "I was playing winter ball. I don't need many games to be ready. A lot of people were saying I wouldn't be ready by Opening Day, but I followed the doctor's instructions."

Almaraz in Aberdeen

The Orioles named Joe Almaraz as their manager at short-season Single-A Aberdeen and Bien Figueroa as their manager at Bluefield of the Rookie-level Appalachian League. Former Oriole pitcher Scott McGregor will be the pitching coach in Aberdeen.

Bonilla pays a visit

Former Oriole Bobby Bonilla stopped by the clubhouse to talk about the Players Trust for Children, a charity established by the Major League Baseball Players Association in 1996.

Bonilla, 39, retired last month. He hit .213 with five home runs in 174 at-bats last season for the St. Louis Cardinals.

"The passion [for baseball] is still there," Bonilla said. "Obviously, you're going to miss it, but so far, so good. You have to wait and see after Opening Day."

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